Friday, May 11, 2012

The Birds and I

The springtime belongs to the birds and me. We own it. We know when the Mayflowers and the buttercups bloom. We know when the first frogs peep. We watch the awakening of the woods. We are wet by the warm April showers. We go where I we will, and we are companions. Every tree and I brook and blade of grass is ours; and our hearts are full of song.
There are boys who kill the birds, and girls who want to catch them and put them in cages; and there are others who steal their eggs. The birds are not partners with them; they are only servants. Birds, like people, sing for their friends, not for their masters. I am sure that one cannot think much of the springtime and the flowers if his heart is always set upon killing or catching something. We are happy when we are free; and so are the birds.

Stuffed birds do not sing and empty eggs do not hatch. Then let us go to the fields and watch the birds. Sit down on the soft grass and try to make out what the robin is doing on yonder fence or why the wren is bursting with song in the thicket. An opera-glass or spy-glass will bring them close to you. Try to find out not only what the colors and shapes and sizes are, but what their habits are. What does the bird eat? How much does it eat? Where is its nest? How many eggs does it lay? What color are they? How long does the mother bird sit? Does the father bird care for her when she is sitting? How long do the young birds remain in the nest? Who feeds them? What are they fed? Is there more than one brood in a season? Where do the birds go after breeding? Do they change their plumage? Are the mother birds and father birds unlike in size or color? How many kinds of birds do you know?
     These are some of the things that every boy or girl wants to know; and we can find out by watching the birds! There is no harm in visiting the nests, if one does it in the right way. I have visited hundreds of them and have kept many records of the number of eggs and the dates when they were laid, how long before they hatched, and when the birds flew away; and the birds took no offense at my inquisitiveness. These are some of the cautions to be observed: Watch only those nests which can be seen without climbing, for if you have to climb the tree the birds will resent it. Make the visit when the birds are absent, if possible; at least, never scare the bird from the nest. Do not touch the eggs or the nest. Make your visit very short. Make up your mind just what you want to see, then look in quickly and pass on. Do not go too often; once or twice a day will be sufficient. Do not take the other children with you, for you are then likely to stay too long and to offend the birds.

    Now let us see how intimately you can become acquainted with some bird this summer. -L.H. Bailey, exerpt from, The Birds and I

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