Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Boyhood Birds

The same charity shop that recently sent me back to my young naturalists's boyhood with a Ladybird book and a cigarette card album, has done it again with this one: The Birds of the British Isles and Their Eggs by T.A. Coward, one of the handsome Wayside and Woodland series. This was the serious bird book of my boyhood, retained by my father from his youth. I used to browse in it at length, enjoying in particular the illustrations - superb colour plates by Archibald Thorburn (reproduced from Lord Lilford's Coloured Figures of the Birds of the British Islands), black-and-white photographs of nests looking worrryingly exposed, and colour plates of eggs in rows against a blank background.
 This book is the first of three volumes, and the fact that I didn't have the other two probably goes some way to explain my extremely patchy knowledge of waders, wildfowl and seabirds - for these I had to rely on my Observer's book and, a good deal later (too late?), the excellent Collins' Pocket Guide to British Birds (R.S.R. Fitter).
 Now I'm living in hope that the charity shop will come up with the other Wayside and Woodland volume of my boyhood - The Butterflies of the British Isles by Richard South.
 [Below: Thorburn's Osprey, reproduced as frontispiece to Coward's Birds]


  1. I'm very lucky that my father (I'm 19) works for a charity shop in running the vans and the items going to and from shops, I always get a good first pick of certain books. Started reading Amis (Kingsley of course), Robert Burns (a bit too Scottish for my tastes) Gaskell, among many others.

  2. That's good to hear, Adam - so much good stuff turns up in the charity shop trade, and I'm glad you're getting first pick. Great that you're reading the right Amis too - looks like Kingsley's books might outlive Martin's...