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قراءة كتاب Birds in London

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Birds in London

Birds in London

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 4
11 The Last Raven 21 The Lady and the Daw 60 London Crows 69 Dabchick on Nest 99 London Starlings 119 Fieldfares at the Tower 131 Wood-pigeon Feeding on Haws 136 Ravenscourt Park 153 Cormorants at St. James’s Park 170 Dabchick Feeding its Young 189 Nightingale on its Nest 249 Chaffinch 271 Starling at Home 303 Dabchick’s Floating Nest: St. James’s Park 329

BIRDS IN LONDON


CHAPTER I

THE BIRDS AND THE BOOK

A handbook of London birds considered—Reasons for not writing it—Changes in the character of the wild bird population, and supposed cause—The London sparrow—Its abundance—Bread-begging habits—Monotony—Its best appearance—Beautiful finches—Value of open spaces—The sparrows’ afternoon tea in Hyde Park—Purpose of this book.

Among the many little schemes and more or less good intentions which have flitted about my brain like summer flies in a room, there was one for a small volume on London birds; to contain, for principal matter, lists of the species resident throughout the year, of the visitants, regular and occasional, and of the vanished species which have inhabited the metropolis in recent, former, or historical times. For everyone, even the veriest Dryasdust among us, has some glow of poetic feeling in him, some lingering regret for the beautiful that has vanished and returneth not; consequently, it would be hard in treating of London bird life not to go back to times which now seem very ancient, when the kite was common—the city’s soaring scavenger, protected by law, just as the infinitely less attractive turkey-buzzard is now protected in some towns of the western world. Again, thanks to Mr. Harting’s researches into old records, we have the account of beautiful white spoonbills, associated with herons, building their nests on the tree-tops in the Bishop of London’s grounds at Fulham.

To leave this fascinating theme. It struck me at first that the book vaguely contemplated might be made useful to lovers and students of bird life in London; and I was also encouraged by the thought that the considerable amount of printed material which exists relating to the subject would make the task of writing it comparatively easy.

But I no sooner looked attentively into the subject than I saw how difficult it really was, and how unsatisfactory, and I might almost add useless, the work would prove.

To begin with, what is London? It is a very big town, a ‘province covered with houses’; but for the ornithologist where, on any side, does the province end? Does it end five miles south of Charing Cross, at Sydenham, or ten miles further afield, at Downe? Or, looking north, do we draw the line at Hampstead, or Aldenham? The whole metropolitan area has, let us say, a circumference of about ninety miles, and within its outermost irregular boundary there is room for half a dozen concentric lines, each of which will contain a London, differing greatly in size and, in a much less degree, in character. If the list be made to include all the birds found in such rural and even wild places—woods, thickets, heaths, and marshes—as exist within a sixteen-mile radius, it is clear that most of the inland species found in the counties of Kent, Surrey, Middlesex, Hertfordshire, and Essex would be in it.

The fact is, in drawing up a list of London birds, the writer can, within limits, make it as long or short as he thinks proper. Thus, if he wishes to have a long list, and is partial to round numbers, he will be able to get a century of species by making his own twelve or thirteen mile radius. Should he then alter his mind, and think that a modest fifty would content him, all he would have to do to get that number would be to contract his line, bringing it somewhere near the indeterminate borders of inner London, where town and country mix or pass into each other. Now a handbook written on this plan would be useful only if a very exact boundary were drawn, and the precise locality given in which each resident or breeding species had its haunts, where the student or lover of birds could watch or listen for it with some chance of being rewarded. Even so, the book would not serve its purpose for a longer period than two or three years; after three years it would most certainly be out of date, so great and continuous is the growth of London on all sides. Thus, going round London, keeping to that partly green indeterminate borderland already mentioned, there are many little hidden rustic spots where in the summer of 1897 the woodpecker, green and spotted, and the nuthatch and tree-creeper bred; also the nightingale, bottle-tit, and wryneck, and jay and

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