It will be found of special value to readers who wish to know more of the birds, beasts, and insects that are the real freeholders of the world, though they have to work hard for their living, and are not without cares and anxieties.
The increasing interest taken in everything connected with the garden and out-of-doors generally will ensure a ready welcome to what is probably a unique feature in a work such as this.
ON the day before I was asked to write this article, my wife and I were standing in our garden in Hertfordshire, discussing some proposed alterations, when I suggested that the bird-bath should be moved to a different position.
The words were scarcely out of my mouth before I knew that my suggestion was unfavourably received.
Ah, that requires a little more con-sideration, said my wife. I am at home all day, and the bird-bath is the most interesting thing that can be seen from our windows.
My wifes remark was so obviously sincere and spontaneous, and so fully confirmed by my own observations over a long period of years, that I felt there was nothing more to be said. The simplest pleasures of life are often the most satisfying. Many an invalid, and many a healthy person as well, will agree with me when I say that watching the birds from our windows and in our gardens is an unfailing source of interest and enjoyment to anyone who has the slightest feeling of sympathy and kindness for their feathered neighbours. 23
The bird-bath in my own garden is a stone one on a pedestal, but during the thirty years I have been studying birds in my own garden I have often made use of various articles taken from the kitchen. It is best, however, to have a flat dish about a foot square, raised above ground level to enable the birds to keep out of the way of cats, and the water should be shallow, not more than an inch and a half deep.
One is often surprised how quickly bird-bath becomes dry. Some birds, particularly starlings, are very wasteful in their boisterous splashing. It is no use keeping a bird-bath unless one is willing to refill it two or three times a day, if necessary.
On one occasion, many years ago, a bird-bath became empty on a hot afternoon, and my favourite robin had to go to the rain-water barrel for a drink. Unfortunately the bird overbalanced in trying to reach down to the water, and was drowned. A bird-lover remembers a sad lesson like that for a very long time. During the last twenty years I suppose I have read several hundreds of books on natural history. Few come within meas urable distance of The Natural History of Selborne, by Gilbert White.
A Clerical Genius
ONE of the secrets of the peculiar – charm of Whites Selborne is that it was written by a country clergyman-naturalist about one narrow spot of English ground, as one of the best of his biographers has put it. Gilbert White never lacked material for observation and study because he seldom travelled farther afield than his own garden and his own village. This inimitable naturalist and delightful writer put the truth of the matter plainly enough when he wrote: It is, I find, in zoology as in botany: all nature is so full, that that district produces greatest variety which is the most examined. Natures Crowded Wonderland
It is really surprising how many delightful and interesting observations concerning bird life and natural history generally are possible within the boundaries of even a small garden. Anyone who has been in the habit of regularly recording such observations discovers this fact readily enough. I have a whole series of day-by-day nature diaries covering many years, as well as larger foolscap diaries and journals, which testify to the infinite variety of the daily happenings in the crowded wonderland of Nature close to our doors.
Comparatively few people would care to make such records, but this is no reason why garden lovers should not share in the pleasures to be obtained from observing the habits and behaviour of their feathered visitors.
Reading about birds is one thing, but watching them is the hotter way. Example, one wintry afternoon I watched for half an hour a robin hopping about on the thin ice that covered a little lily-pond. Before I turned away, the first robin was joined by another, and in the soft January sunshine the little birds made a picture that I shall not readily forget. A Fowl-house as Bird Hospital T HAD never seen a robin redbreast walk-A ing on ice before But it is not only the individual who consistently makes a hobby of nature study who sees unusual and beautiful sights in this direction. I was once staying in a suburban house, and the son of my host, a lad of thirteen, took me out to see the tiny garden, which was surrounded by the usual close boarded fence. At the bottom of the oblong enclosure there was a small disused fowl-house, with a front of wire netting. The boy told me that it was a pity I had not come a week earlier, as he had only a few days previously liberated a brown owl, which he had kept in the fowl-house for several weeks while it was recovering from an injury.