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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

THE BUTCHER BIRD-Academic Reading for GMAT/IELTS/SAT




Everyone who observes the habits of birds soon notices with astonishment the regularity with which they return each summer to the same spots to breed. This is perhaps not so strange in the case of breeding birds; they may be so fastidious in their selection of food or of a nesting site that only a few places suit them, or the spot where they bred one year may appeal to their affection and so be selected again. It is no less evident and more remarkable that birds that spend only the winter in our neighborhood often have as well defined a home as those that spend the summer. Every autumn, about the first of November, if one looks carefully at the topmost twigs of the small trees that are scattered about the edges of some marsh, the eye may finally catch, perched on the very top, the figure of a plump gray bird, with black wings and tail, about the size of a Robin. Its tail often moves as if the bird were balancing itself. A nearer view would show that its bill was stout and slightly hooked, like a hawk's. Among song birds, it is our largest regular winter visitor, and will remain near the same spot till the end of March, when it retires northward to breed. The same trees serve year after year as look-out posts; no doubt the bird remembers where to find the fattest mice and grasshoppers.
The Butcher Bird, or Shrike, is one of the few birds that seem to have developed a sense of humor. I have seen it attack and drive off birds far larger than itself, apparently out of simple mischief. It often indulges in a succession of strange noises, some of which resemble the song of the Catbird, but the whole performance is interspersed with chuckles, squeaks, and harsh sounds, or interrupted by a grating cry, so that it can make no pretense to be called melodious. It seems sometimes as if the bird were simply amusing itself.
For a while you will regard the Butcher Bird as a good-natured, good-looking fellow; it is not till you find, near its post of observation, mice or birds jammed into the crotches of twigs, or discover a thorn bush decorated with grasshoppers and caterpillars, that you recall certain unpleasant reports about its character. When you finally see it dash into a flock of sparrows and hear their screech of terror, or see it tear out its victim's brains with that hooked bill, you will understand its hawk-like habit of sitting where it can survey its whole domain. The Hawks clutch their prey in their curved talons, and then tear it with their beak. The Shrike's claws are neither curved nor powerful, so that it is evident that it wedges its victims into forked twigs or impales them on thorns, so that it can then tear off portions to devour. But why it so often leaves them uneaten (the practice of thus displaying its wares has earned the bird its name) has never been satisfactorily explained. Perhaps the bird means to return to them in times of scarcity, but they are so often left uneaten that it seems probable that it has formed the habit of hunting and hanging up its game, often with no thought of eating it.
The Butcher Bird has often been persecuted for the destruction of smaller birds; it seems far wiser to protect it, not only in order to preserve so interesting a bird, but because birds form so small a per cent of its food. In the spring and fall, it lives very largely on insects, and throughout the winter, mice form a large part of its diet. There is always danger of blundering when man interferes in the concerns of nature, and if he once exterminates any creature, it is beyond his power to re-create it.

Vocabulary Task- GMAT/IELTS/SAT (Intermediate-Advanced level)



meander
preposterously
slunk
smother
stoop


1.     Ginger had bitten a piece right out of the back of Joh’s neck one day when he had _____ down too near the cage.
2.     Anne _____ a smile.
3.     It sounds so _____ up-to-date and modernish for this darling, leisurely old place.
4.     Several of the native servants seemed missing while those whom Mary saw _____ or hurried about with ashy and scared faces.
5.     He thought his happiness was complete when, as he _____ aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Conundrums




1.     What sea would a man like to be in on a wet day? – Adriatic (a dry attic)
2.     What grows the less tired the more it works? – A carriage wheel.
3.     What musical instrument invites you to fish? – Cast – a net
4.     What is it from which you may take away the whole and still have some left? – The word wholesome.
5.     What is the difference between a farmer and a seam stress? – One gathers what he sows, the other sews what she gathers.
6.     Why does the conductor cut a hole in your railroad ticket? – To let you pass through.
7.     What is that which is seen twice in “every day” and four times in “every week”, yet only once in a year? – The vowel e.
8.     Which are the only two words in the English language where the five vowels follow in successive order? – Facetious and abstemious.
9.     What word is there of eight letters which has five of them the same? – Oroonoko.
10.                         What word composed of five letters can you take the first two letters from and have one remain? –Stone

Monday, August 29, 2016

THE BROWN CREEPER - Academic Reading for GMAT/IELTS/SAT




In the bands of little birds which in winter visit the trees about the houses, there are often three different species, all of which find their food on the trunks or large limbs of trees, but by such different methods that a study of their habits is not only interesting but also extremely instructive. The little Downy Woodpecker, like all its tribe, hitches up the trunk or along the upper side of the limb, using its stiff tail feathers as a support, and holding on to the bark by its two pairs of sharp claws. The Nuthatch, with a short weak tail, and toes arranged as in all song birds, three in front and one behind, has the toes, however, spread so wide that it can climb head downward, over, under, or around the limb. Least known of the three is the Brown Creeper. It, too, has three toes in front and one behind, but although not related to the Woodpeckers, it has developed stiff and pointed tail feathers. It therefore clings to the bark in an upright position, and it commonly begins at the bottom of the tree and works steadily upward, often in a spiral.
During the winter months, the Brown Creeper probably visits every village street and every city park in the Northern States, but as it is just the color of the weathered bark and moves close to it, it escapes the notice of nearly every one. If one learns to distinguish the fine wiry note, and watches the tree from which it proceeds, one sees the bird flutter to the base of a neighboring tree and begin again its steady ascent. When two birds are together, they sometimes indulge in a very pretty flight, and tumble in the air like pigeons. As a rule, however, the Creeper is solitary, and, in this respect, offers a marked contrast to its companions and relatives, the sociable Chickadees and Kinglets.
The eyes of a Creeper are so near the bark which it is inspecting, that it is not strange that it finds food where we should look in vain. It has, besides, a very long curved bill which will reach into crevices in the bark, and before the end of the winter, it has undoubtedly stripped the trees of a large proportion of the dormant insects and their eggs, especially as, like the other winter birds, it seems to have a very regular beat, visiting the same groups or rows of trees every day. Few birds are so strictly arboreal as the Creepers. The writer has only once seen one alight on the ground, when the bird flew to a little stream to bathe. In the ice storms which occasionally clothe every trunk and limb with a glassy covering, the Creeper has to confine itself to the leeward side of the trees. Occasionally the Creeper, on account of its practice of beginning at the bottom of the trunk, flies to a spot on the tree below the band of tarred paper, which protects the shade trees from the visits of the canker-worm moth. On reaching the band, the bird makes a circuit of the trunk, in a vain attempt to find a passage. It is better provided, however, than the wingless moths, and when the circuit has been made, a short flight carries it over.
In April, the Creeper leaves its winter quarters for the North, and joins many other species in the great spruce forests of northern New England and Canada. Occasionally, on warm mornings before its departure, the male indulges in a little song, of the thinnest quality imaginable. When the pair reaches their northern home, they hunt for a crevice under some great flake of loose bark, and there construct their nest. The bark of trees, therefore, furnishes the Creeper with a cradle at birth and a home for the rest of its life.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

THE BLUE JAY - Academic Reading for GMAT/IELTS/SAT




Most people are surprised when they first learn that the Blue Jay is a near relative of the Crow. The difference in color is certainly marked, but in other ways the resemblance is striking. Neither bird can utter its most characteristic note without gesticulation. Watch a Crow from a car window when the caw is inaudible, and the bowing and opening of the wings are all the more noticeable. The motions which the Jay makes when screaming are not so well known, as the sound generally comes from a screen of leaves. Both birds are thieves and seem to relish their thieving life; both can live on almost any food; both are heartily hated by their neighbors in bird world. The Jay is more bitterly detested by the other birds than the Crow. He is himself suspicious, and at the approach of a hawk, owl, or man, warns the woods by his cries. Besides the ordinary djay, djay, the loud scream so familiar in the autumn woods, the Jay has other cries; a note like a wheelbarrow turning on an ungreased axle, a high scream exactly like the Red-shouldered Hawk's, and such a variety of lesser notes that one never is surprised to find that any unusual sound heard in the woods is produced by the Blue Jay.
Though one of the noisiest of birds when pursuing an intruder, the Jay has learned to slip through the trees without a sound, and conceals its bright blue and white in a remarkable way. A pair of Jays may be nesting in some evergreen in our very garden, and unless we happen to see the female slip into the tree, we may remain entirely unaware of their presence. The nest is roughly constructed of twigs and roots, and is placed in a tree from six to twenty feet from the ground. On a lining of finer roots are laid four or five brownish or greenish eggs, spotted with yellowish brown. The young are hatched by the middle or end of June.
The Jay in spring is undoubtedly a reprobate. He cannot resist the temptation to sneak through the trees and bushes, and when he finds a nest of eggs temporarily left by its owner, to thrust his sharp bill through the shells; even young birds are devoured. In the autumn, however, the Jay is a hearty, open fellow, noisy and intent on acorns and chestnuts. The woods ring with his loud screams, as he travels through them with his companions. It is amusing at this season to observe them obtaining chestnuts, a favorite food. They drive their powerful bills into a nut and wrench it out of the burr, then fly off with it to a convenient limb and hammer it open. Many Jays spend the entire winter in the northern woods, subsisting on nuts, but the large numbers observed in the fall are evidence that many others are moving southward, where food is more plenty.
Jays and squirrels are curiously associated; both live in the autumn and winter, innocently enough, on nuts and acorns; both, in spring, poach on the eggs and young of birds. One becomes fond of each of these rascals in spite of his undoubted villains, and is glad that though neither Squirrel nor Jay is protected by law, and in some states both are constantly persecuted, neither seems to be diminishing in numbers.
In Europe, the Crow and the Jay have several relatives, many of whom, such as the Magpie, Rook, and Jackdaw, share the family characteristics. They are all thieves, clowns, and impudent fellows, and yet win, if not affection, yet a certain degree of good-humored toleration.