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Adapted by Alison Pryce

First printed in1927.
Contents    Chapter One


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 said.

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.

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