The Modest Bird-Lover
It has often seemed to me that there must be many thous- ands of bird-lovers, principally perhaps townspeople, who never see a rare bird from one year's end to another, and to whom talk of falcons and Montagu's Harriers and bitterns means less even than talk of parroquets and vultures
and sword-fish. Few people — fewer than commonly imagined I think—specialise in birds, and fewer still can find the precious time and even more precious courage to explore in winter the eastern marshes and farthest northern moors which our rarest birds inhabit. For them the heron is an uncommon bird and the uprising of a bevy of many hundreds of wild duck from flood waters a specially beautiful and un- forgettable sight. To such bird-lovers the floods of the autumn will have been a source of great pleasure. For nothing turns a homely civilised valley into a wild place quicker or more completely than a vast acreage of water, and nothing in turn seems to attract birds in flocks so readily as a valley in flood. And when gulls and peewits intermingle in great flocks of white and black on the waters and on the grass islands and promontories, and when swans skein up and fly over with that strange forlorn cry of fretfulness, the modest bird-lover gets his thrill exactly as the specialist gets his. And I must confess that I am with him. In his world the heron flapping sombrely in the north December wind is a rare and splendid sight, and the sudden fierce cry of wild geese trumpeting across the snow the wildest bird-sound he knows.
H. E. BATES.