J. M. DENT & CO., ALDINE HOUSE
29 & 30 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
WATCHING GREAT PLOVERS, ETC.
WATCHING RINGED PLOVERS, REDSHANKS, PEEWITS, ETC.
WATCHING STOCK-DOVES, WOOD-PIGEONS, SNIPE, ETC.
WATCHING WHEATEARS, DABCHICKS, OYSTER-CATCHERS, ETC.
WATCHING GULLS AND SKUAS
WATCHING RAVENS, CURLEWS, EIDER-DUCKS, ETC.
WATCHING SHAGS AND GUILLEMOTS
WATCHING BIRDS AT A STRAW-STACK
WATCHING BIRDS IN THE GREENWOODS
WATCHING BLACKBIRDS, NIGHTINGALES, SAND-MARTINS, ETC.
Male Oyster-catchers piping to the Female . . Frontispiece Photogravure Dancing of Great Plovers in Autumn . facing page 11 Photogravure Great Plovers : A Nuptial Pose . .* . Page 19 Master and Pupil : Hooded-Crow flying ivith Peewits „ 29 Stock-Doves : A Duel with Ceremonies . . ,,40 Turtle Doves : The Nuptial Flight . facing page 50 Plujtogravure Great Skuas : Nuptial Flight and Pose . „ „ loi Photogravure Ravens: The Game of Reversi . . . Page 135 Habet ! Great-crested Grebe attacked by another under water . . ■ • ■ » IS° Love on a Rock : Shags during the breeding season ..... facing page 168 Photogravure On a Guillemot-ledge ■ . • „ » 192 Fairy Artillery : Willow- Warbler pecking catkins inflight Pagei'iti, Rooks ; A Winter Scene 279 In a Sand-pit .... facing page 329 Photogravure
All the above from Drawings by J. Smit.
I SHOULD like to explain that this work, being, with one or two insignificant exceptions, a record of my own observations only, it has not been my intention to make general statements in regard to the habits of any particular bird. In practice, however, it is often difficult to write as if one were not doing this, without its having a very clumsy effect. One cannot, for instance, always say, "I have seen birds fly." One has to say, upon occasions, "Birds fly."
Moreover, it is obvious that in much of the more important business of bird-life, one would be fully justified in arguing from the particular to the general: perhaps (though this is not my opinion) one would always be. But, whether this is the case or not, I wish it to be understood that, throughout, a remark that any bird acts in such or such a way means, merely, that I have, on one or more occasions, seen it do so. Also, all that I have seen which is included in this volume was noted down by me either just after it had taken place or whilst it actually was taking place; the quotations (except when literary or otherwise explicitly stated) being always from my own notes so made. For this reason I call my work "Bird Watching," and I hope that the title will explain, and even justify, a good deal which in itself is certainly a want and a failing. One cannot, unfortunately, watch all birds, and of those that one can it is difficult not to say at once too little and too much: too little, because one may have only had the luck to see well a single point in the round of activities of any species—one feather in its plumage, so to speak—and too much, because even to speak of this adequately is to fill many pages and deny space to some other bird. All I can do is to speak of some few birds as I have watched them in some few things. Those who read this preface will, I hope, expect nothing more, and I hope that not much more is implied in the title which I have chosen. Perhaps I might have been more explicit, but English is not German. "Of-some-few-birds-the-occasional-in-some-things-watching" does not seem to go well as a compound, and "Observations on," etc., sounds as formidable as "Beobachtungen über." It matters not how one may limit it, the word "Observations" has a terrific sound. Let a man say merely that he watched a robin (for instance) doing something, and no one will shrink from him; but if he talks about his "Observations on the Robin-Redbreast" then, let these have been ever so restricted, and even though he may forbear to call the bird by its Latin name, he must expect to pay the penalty. The very limitations will have something severe—smacking of precise scientific distinction—about them, and the implied preference for English in such a case will appear affected and to be a clumsy attempt, merely, to make himself popular. Therefore, I will not call my book " Observations on," etc. I have watched birds only, I have not observed them. It is true that, in the text itself, I do not shrink from the latter word, either as substantive or verb, or even from the Latin name of a bird, here and there, when I happen to know it (for is there not such a thing as childish pride?). But that is different. I do not begin at once in that way, and by the time I get to it anyone will have found me out, and know that I am really quite harmless. Besides, I have now set matters in their right light. But I was not going to handicap myself upon my very cover and trust to its contents, merely, for getting over it. That would have been over-confidence.
Again, in the following pages there are some points which I just touch upon and leave with an undertaking to go more fully into, in a subsequent chapter. This I have always meant to do, but want of space has, in some instances, prevented me from carrying out my intention. For this, I will apologise only, leaving it to my readers to excuse me should they think fit. Perhaps they will do so very readily.Also,—but I cannot afford to point out any more of my shortcomings. That, too, I must leave to "the reader," who, I hope, will in this matter but little deserve that epithet of "discerning" which is often so generously—not to say boldly—bestowed upon him,