When late October’s frosty breath
Blows over color’d woodlands gay;
From the remotest Labrador,
From Baffin’s and from Hudson’s Bay,
The streaming migratory flocks
Of sable coot their journey urge,
Following the coast-line’s devious sweep
To Florida’s remotest verge.
Since earliest spring-time they have sought
The utmost northern isle and shoal;
Their chosen haunt and breeding ground,
In latitudes beneath the Pole.
The wild-geese and the brent-geese there
In swamps impervious build their nest
(So Northern fishermen declare),
Where none may reach them to molest.
But the shy coot-tribes o’er the sands
And reeds of rocky island throng;
There frame the nest and rear the young,
And linger all the summer long.
Of every jutting reef and point
Thrust seaward from New England’s shore,
The wild-fowl shooters spread the sail
And vex the waters with the oar.
There, anchor’d in a curving line,
Two score of tossing boats extend,
Each fowler prompt to uprais’d gun
To thin the flocks, where’er they tend.
The old-wife, swiftest on the wing,
The sheldrake pied, and speckled loon,
Join in the ocean voyaging.
And flank each migration platoon;
Nor cease their see-flights till the breeze
Of summer climates warms the seas.
In Massachusetts Bay, and far
Where Cape Cod spreads its yellow sand,
By every creek and cape of Maine,
River and estuary grand,
In Vineyard and Long Island Sound,
And by its southern ocean shore,
Their countless myriads are found,
Winging as far as billows pour.
By Jersey coast and Delaware Bay,
From Cape Charles to York River Tides,
The black coot plies his dusky wing,
And o’er the tossing ocean glides.
By Gardiner’s and by Shelter Isle,
Far out on sandy bar and shoal,
These swarming water-fowl disport
Wherever salty billows roll.
And where Peconic spreads its sheet,
Engirdled by its hills of green,
The coot and whistlers find a haunt
In shelter’d reach and cove serene.
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