Everything used in "weeding" should be baked in a slow oven, otherwise spider's eggs and minute creatures, which are pretty sure to be contained in it, will make their appearance after the case is closed in the disagreeable form of destroying your specimen. Moss, etc., by being slowly dried, will also keep its color better. Yellow moss, found on the roofs of old barns, and dark gray of the same species, are very generally useful; and where yellow moss cannot be had, the white or gray may be colored with chrome, and looks as well. Water plants fade, being more or less succulent, and hence a little common water-color with gum will be used with advantage and look less artificial than oil plant, which is often used. Fern looks very pretty as an adjunct for heath-birds, but it should be dried gradually and carefully, when quite full grown, and a small touch of light green, permanent white forming a portion of it, will give it a freshness and more natural appearance. Grass in seed (not in flower) of various kinds is also a very pretty addition; but bird preservers have a habit of using dyed grass, and yellow and red Xeranthy-mum, or Everlasting, which is certainly to be avoided, and indeed anything which is unnatural. If it is wished to introduce a lump of earth, or an apparent bank, a piece of thick brown paper, bent to the requisite shape, and glued over and covered with sifted sand or gravel, has a very good effect; but insects and butterflies, or artificial flowers, unless they are extremely natural, should certainly be avoided. Regard should also be had to the season at which the bird is usually seen. For instance, summer birds are, of course, surrounded by green and living objects, but autumn or winter visitants by decaying or dead herbage. It has often been made an experiment to represent snow, but it is difficult to obtain anything white enough, and at the same time of a crystalline character, which, of course, it should be. Potato farina nicely dried, mixed with Epsom salts pounded very fine, does not make a bad substitute; but the real difficulty lies behind, namely, in fixing it, and, more than all, the least damp takes very much from its appearance, if it does not destroy the effect, and hence we must have recourse to mineral aid, and any very white mineral powder mingled with pounded glass is perhaps best. It is unnecessary to say that the herbage upon which it is meant to rest should be touched all over with paste, not glue, and the white mixture shaken over and left to dry. What will heighten the effect very much, if prettily executed, is a black landscape with a dark leaden sky and nearly black earth mingled with moss. To represent water, a piece of looking-glass, surrounded by moss, etc., answers very well. The bills and legs of birds should be always varnished, and where the natural color fades after death it should be restored by a thin coat of oil-color of the required shade. The bird being fixed and the case garnished, nothing remains but to put in the glass; this is in three pieces, one for the front and a piece at each end. This can be pasted in with very strong paper round the edge, advancing sufficiently over the glass to hold it. In doing this it is not necessary to be very particular to avoid pasting the glass, as after it is dried it can be wiped clean with a damp cloth. The last operation is a very simple one, and done in a few minutes. You must procure some black spirit-varnish, which you can make yourself by dissolving the best black sealing-wax in spirits of wine, and should be kept corked; when this is good it acts as paint and varnish at the same time, and dries as fast as it is put on. One or two brass rings screwed on at the top of the back of the case will finish the "bird, and if the case be nicely and closely made, there is no limit of time to which the preservation of the specimen may not extend.
The general method is exactly the same as in stuffing recent specimens. There are, however, some preliminary steps, which it is necessary to know.
If the specimen sent home has been partially stuffed, our first business is to undo the stitches, if it has been sewed -which was an unnecessary process. We then remove the whole cotton or tow from the inside, by the assistance of forceps, and from the neck with a small piece of wire, twisted or hooked at the end. Having finished this, small balls of wet cotton are placed in the orbits of the eyes, and the legs and feet are wrapped round with wet cotton or linen rags. A damp cloth is then thrown over the bird, and it is allowed to remain in this state till next day. The neck and body are then filled with wet linen or cotton, and it will be ready for commencing setting up in four or five hours.
The eyes are now put in, as directed in the recent subjects, and then stuffed in exactly the same manner. Some difficulty will, however, be experienced with respect to the leg-wires, and it will require more time and care, from the dryness of the legs, to get the wire to penetrate. Having proceeded so far as to get the bird generally formed, the wings are next adjusted; this also is frequently difficult, owing to the stiffness of the tendons, and want of proper attention in skinning and drying them at first. Indeed, with some of the South American birds, a proper adjustment of the wings is found impracticable, owing to the attempts of the native Indians of Guyana, who seldom dispose them properly.
When these skins - frequently exceedingly valuable from their rarity - are undone, to be remounted, it is oftentimes found utterly impossible to get the wings to take a natural set, in which case there is no other remedy but cutting them off close to the body, and fixing them anew. The scapulars are separated, they are softened with damp cloths, and then wrapped up with bands of sheet lead, to give them a proper set. When we have got them in their natural shape, they must be fixed to the sides by cement and cotton, and a long pin through each, with the head concealed amongst the feathers. The scapulars, which we have cut off, must then be cemented on, and they will effectually cover the joining of the wings. The bird being now arranged, and all the feathers adjusted, it is wrapped round with small bands of fine linen or muslin, and set aside till thoroughly dry.