Many hours were spent walking very slowly beside hedges, peering between the leaves in hope of finding a new nest. There were other places to search too - the margins of the farm ponds, in old buildings and even on the ground among the tussocks of rough grass. Sometimes I found a nest quite by chance while searching for a cricket ball that some schoolfriend had hit into the bushes.
When you got the egg home, if it didn't break in your pocket on the way, you had to make a small hole in either end with a needle then carefully blow the contents out. It sounds akin to murder to me now but that's what we did.
It was all many years ago, of course. Half a century ago I would guess since inside the cover it says that it was a birthday gift from my brother, and the fact that the message is in my mother's handwriting means that my brother must have been too young to have written it himself. Lets have a quick peep inside the book.
Top left I can see the egg of a Yellowhammer, or Yellow Bunting as we were supposed to call it at the time. Does anyone say Yellow Bunting any more? Or how about Hedge Accentor for the Dunnock? I remember my Yellowhammer's egg with its eccentric scribbly markings. Of course the eggs I really wanted to find were the sort shown below. Not much chance of finding any Puffin's eggs in rural Cambridgeshire. But that didn't stop me from looking!
Times and attitudes change - I know that collecting birds eggs was a popular hobby for boys in Victorian times and the early 20th century.ReplyDelete
Hey, I'm not that old, Rowan!Delete
I cringe to think of the nest hunts my dad led me on.....we didn't take eggs, but once or twice a nestling that I tried to raise unsuccessfully. It instilled in me a great love of nature and a sense of awe about all outdoors. He was always taking us for discovery walks, and pointing out birds, nests, ponds, turtles and small animals--nature lore which he had taught himself in his wanderings as a youth.ReplyDelete
I understand completely. I have six cases full of insects and butterflies collected over a period of time. Now I feel bad for all the death required for this collection.ReplyDelete
The book may have inspired you to rob some nests as a child, but it also helped to spark your life-long interest in birding, and perhaps nature in general. Years ago, we didn't have our wonderful digital cameras so it was more difficult to record our finds. Looks like a wonderful little book. Your Mom was very wise to give it to you.ReplyDelete
I never hunted eggs. A similar issue is with hunting butterflies. There are probably some decent arguments for collecting eggs and butterflies, for eductional purposes.ReplyDelete
This book brought back memories for me John, I used to have a lot of these Observer books - still have the dogs one. My father and I used to walk the lanes looking for birds' nests - he was very good at finding them. We never took an egg but I still remember the excitment of finding yellow hammer in the hedge and a wren on a grassy bank. Those were the days - they stand out in one's memory as being golden.ReplyDelete
Reminds me of the delicate robin's egg that fell from a nest in our pine tree...hate it when that happens.ReplyDelete
I never collected eggs -though I had other 'Observer' books, great stuff - but I recall being fascinated by the cases full of eggs in our local museum. So beautiful and varied. As you say, it all feels quite horrifying in hindsight.ReplyDelete