I write these few introductory sentences to this volume only to second so
worthy an attempt to quicken and enlarge the general interest in our birds.
The book itself is merely an introduction, and is only designed to place a few
clews in the reader's hands which he himself or herself is to follow up. I can
say that it is reliable and is written in a vivacious strain and by a real
bird lover, and should prove a help and a stimulus to any one who seeks by the
aid of its pages to become better acquainted with our songsters.
The various grouping of the birds according to color, season, habitat, etc., ought to
render the identification of the birds, with no other weapon than an opera
glass, an easy matter.
When I began the study of the birds I had access to a copy of Audubon, which
greatly stimulated my interest in the pursuit, but I did not have the opera
glass, and I could not take Audubon with me on my walks, as the reader may
But you do not want to make out your bird the first time; the book or your
friend must not make the problem too easy for you. You must go again and
again, and see and hear your bird under varying conditions and get a good hold
of several of its characteristic traits.
Things easily learned are apt to be easily forgotten. Some ladies, beginning the study of birds, once wrote to me,
asking if I would not please come and help them, and set them right about
certain birds in dispute. I replied that that would be getting their knowledge
too easily; that what I and any one else told them they would be very apt to
forget, but that the things they found out themselves they would always
remember. We must in a way earn what we have or keep. Only thus does it become
ours, a real part of us.
Not very long afterward I had the pleasure of walking with one of the ladies,
and I found her eye and ear quite as sharp as my own, and that she was in a
fair way to conquer the bird kingdom without any outside help.
She said that the groves and fields, through which she used to walk with only a languid
interest, were now completely transformed to her and afforded her the keenest
pleasure; a whole new world of interest had been disclosed to her; she felt as
if she was constantly on the eve of some new discovery; the next turn in the
path might reveal to her a new warbler or a new vireo.
I remember the thrill she seemed to experience when I called her attention to a purple finch singing
in the tree-tops in front of her house, a rare visitant she had not before
heard. The thrill would of course have been greater had she identified the
bird without my aid. One would rather bag one's own game, whether it be with a
bullet or an eyebeam.