Bird Neighbors Ebook
Title: Bird Neighbors
Author: Neltje Blanchan
I write these few introductory sentences to this volume only to second so worthy an attempt to quicken and enlarge the general interest in our birds. The ebook itself is merely an introduction, and is only designed to place a few clews in the reader's hands which he himself or herself is to follow up. I can say that it is reliable and is written in a vivacious strain and by a real bird lover, and should prove a help and a stimulus to any one who seeks by the aid of its pages to become better acquainted with our songsters. The various grouping of the birds according to color, season, habitat, etc., ought to render the identification of the birds, with no other weapon than an opera glass, an easy matter.
When I began the study of the birds I had access to a copy of Audubon, which greatly stimulated my interest in the pursuit, but I did not have the opera glass, and I could not take Audubon with me on my walks, as the reader may this volume.
But you do not want to make out your bird the first time; the ebook or your friend must not make the problem too easy for you. You must go again and again, and see and hear your bird under varying conditions and get a good hold of several of its characteristic traits. Things easily learned are apt to be easily forgotten. Some ladies, beginning the study of birds, once wrote to me, asking if I would not please come and help them, and set them right about certain birds in dispute. I replied that that would be getting their knowledge too easily; that what I and any one else told them they would be very apt to forget, but that the things they found out themselves they would always remember. We must in a way earn what we have or keep. Only thus does it become ours, a real part of us.
Not very long afterward I had the pleasure of walking with one of the ladies, and I found her eye and ear quite as sharp as my own, and that she was in a fair way to conquer the bird kingdom without any outside help. She said that the groves and fields, through which she used to walk with only a languid interest, were now completely transformed to her and afforded her the keenest pleasure; a whole new world of interest had been disclosed to her; she felt as if she was constantly on the eve of some new discovery; the next turn in the path might reveal to her a new warbler or a new vireo. I remember the thrill she seemed to experience when I called her attention to a purple finch singing in the tree-tops in front of her house, a rare visitant she had not before heard. The thrill would of course have been greater had she identified the bird without my aid. One would rather bag one's own game, whether it be with a bullet or an eyebeam.
The experience of this lady is the experience of all in whom is kindled this bird enthusiasm. A new interest is added to life; one more resource against ennui and stagnation. If you have only a city yard with a few sickly trees in it, you will find great delight in noting the numerous stragglers from the great army of spring and autumn migrants that find their way there. If you live in the country, it is as if new eyes and new ears were given you, with a correspondingly increased capacity for rural enjoyment.
The birds link themselves to your memory of seasons and places, so that A song, a call, a gleam of color, set going a sequence of delightful reminiscences in your mind. When a solitary great Carolina wren came one August day and took up its abode near me and sang and called and warbled as I had heard it long before on the Potomac, how it brought the old days, the old scenes back again, and made me for the moment younger by all those years!
A few seasons ago I feared the tribe of bluebirds were on the verge of extinction from the enormous number of them that perished from cold and hunger in the South in the winter of '94. For two summers not a blue wing, not a blue warble. I seemed to miss something kindred and precious from my environment the visible embodiment of the tender sky and the wistful soil. What a loss, I said, to the coming generations of dwellers in the country no bluebird in the spring! What will the farm-boy date from? But the fear was groundless: the birds are regaining their lost ground; broods of young blue-coats are again seen drifting from stake to stake or from mullen-stalk to mullen-stalk about the fields in summer, and our April air will doubtless again be warmed and thrilled by this lovely harbinger of spring.
JOHN BURROUGHS, August 19, 1897
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