Where do birds come from?

Of birds

When I was a small boy, I often wondered where they came from and where they went and what they did in private. It seemed to me they were so secretive. Only in Spring did they stay in one place, and that was to nest. Bod nestin was a wonderful time. Seeking a nest had a driving purpose – to get an egg. I only took one egg because the purpose of the collection was to get as many different species as possible. It was a challenge; a competition really. Who amongst us boys had the most different eggs. Mind you, the type did come into it as well. I think that was more to do with size than rarity. For example, a lapwing or a partridge was rated above a yellow hammer which, by the way, had several nicknames due to the markings on its egg. We might call it a writing master or scribbler.

 Until the teenage years, my birds’ egg collection came only second to my stamp collection. My eggs were stored in a large rectangular cardboard box with each egg resting on cotton wool. I treasured this box and only my very best friends could see what I had. Of course, the 1940’s and 1950’s were the lucky years. We had birds you wouldn’t see today and before they flew off to their secret hiding place, they followed the horse and then the tractor as the grass or corn was mowed. They sang as the sun rose, they worked hard all day to feed their brood and then sang again as the sun set. Birds played a very important part in my life on the farm and included starlings that brought disease and magpies that wreaked havoc.

All this childhood memory came back once I realised that the treasured secrecy had gone. Technology had brought voyeurism and it’s a shame. Yes, it’s fascinating to see what they get up to in that cosy nest, but it is their world you know. When I think back, what I didn’t know was more valuable than what I do know now.

Derbyshire boy

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