This book will have no scientific value. Those who have studied
birds will not find in it anything that they do not already know;
those who do not care for birds will not be interested in the
subject. The writing of the book, and still more the publishing of
it, require some explanation.
There are three categories of books about British birds for which
the reason and justification are apparent:
I. Books of which
the main purpose is to give coloured representations of each
species; and thereby to enable us to recognise a bird by referring
to the picture of it. The work brought out by the late Lord Lilford
is one example of this kind.
2. Manuals that
collect and bring up to date what is known about every sort of
British bird. These are invaluable; one at least should be available
to everybody who studies birds: but like encyclopaedias, these are
for reference and not intended to be read through continuously from
cover to cover. Seebohm, Howard Saunders and Coward are examples of
this category. So are the volumes of Kirkman and Thorburn, which
have coloured illustrations as well as being stores of information.
3. Books that are the outcome of personal
observation by the writer of particular species or individual birds.
Eliot Howard's books on the British Warblers, and on "Territory,"
are fine examples of this category; and in it may also be placed
articles, such as those of J. P. Burkitt in British Birds
and in The Irish Naturalist, and of E. M. Nicholson
recently in The Field. These are books or articles to be read
right through. They are a most valuable contribution to our
knowledge. They throw new light on territory, courtship, mating and
the intimate life of birds.
Personal observation will always make a book
valuable. In this book there will be some things here and there that
may deserve to be placed in this last category, but they will be
slight and not thorough. My opportunities for watching birds have
been intermittent. My observations have been made for recreation; in
search of pleasure, not of knowledge; and they have been pursued
only in so far as they ministered to the pleasure of holidays and
home life. Nevertheless the interest in wild birds that began in
early manhood, concinued. It provided one form of recreation
that was increasingly satisfactory, and it is pleasant to pay a
tribute to the interest and pleasure that birds have given. One who
reviews pleasant experiences and puts them on record increases the
value of them to himself; he gathers up his own feelings and
reflections, and is thereby better able to understand and to measure
the fullness of what he has enjoyed. This may account sufficiently
for the impulse to write; but it is not relevant to the question of
publication, and on this point there are one or two things to be
When I was beginning to notice birds I found delight and help in
Warde Fowler's A
Year with the Birds. Here was a man whose work-he was a Don at
Oxford-had, like my own, lain outside study of Natural History. He
hacl been doing for many years with birds just what I was beginning to do: he had
found it a pleasant path for recreation. This book of his did, as it
were, blaze a trail, which anyone with an inclination to birds could
follow, and thereby be led to find much pleasure. This book of mine
may perhaps be of some use in the same manner.
After all, it is not entirely to exchange
information that lovers of birds converse together on this subject.
An artist will paint the commonest object in order to bring out some
aspect that has particularly struck him. So with watchers of birds,
some are attracted by one aspect of a well-known species and some by
another. Thus even those of us who have nothing new to tell, may
have something that is fresh to say.
Music of Birds
Copyright © 2006