16 OCTOBER 1953, Page 26

A Mixed Blessing

Finding Nests. By Bruce Campbell. (Collins. 12s. 6d.) THE object of this book is to help people to find birds' nests. Both the publisher and the author consider that in the past, when taking of eggs was a common practice, it would have been dangerous to publish this information, but that it is now safe to do so because of the great increase in the numbers of people who are interested in birds and their protection. I entirely agree about the increase in interest in birds, also with Mr. Campbell's statement that photo- graphers have helped to create this favourable climate of opinion, but I remain very nervous about the results of a book which encourages people, however good their intentions, to roam the country searching for nests.

Some of the methods of birds-nesting suggested by Mr. Campbell, such as dragging a rope held by two searchers over open country in order to flush birds from their nests in low cover, strike me as poor sport and rather barbaric. If the searcher for a nest has neither the patience, nor the eyes, nor the ears to collect the evidence from the birds as to the exact whereabouts of the nest, he does not in my opinion deserve to find it and may do much harm in his clumsy methods of search.

The author reproduces " The Nest Record Card " of the British Trust for Ornithology, which when filled in gives information on habitat, site, times of laying, hatching, etc. It strikes me as an example of the modern thirst for statistics and as out of tune with the tastes and the- writings of Lord Grey of Fallodon, in whose memory the Trust was founded. On the other hand, Mr. Campbell has been very happy in his choice of photographs to illustrate the book, and has avoided the type of picture which shows practically nothing but the bird and makes it look as if it were enclosed in a small glass case. The surroundings are well shown and in some cases very attractive.

The book is divided into two parts. The first consists of only three chapters entitled : " Why find nests ? " " Methods of nest finding " and " Lobking at nests." The second, which amounts to about four-fifths of the book, deals with the distribution, season of nesting, habitat, nest site, nest and methods of finding the nest of all the species which breed in this country. My comments shall be confined to the first and general portion. Mr. Campbell says :

" There are two ways in which you can find a nest : by searching for it yourself or by getting the birds to show it to you.'

" Finding by searching is cruder than finding by watching, h requires less knowledge of the birds and far less patience."

I gather that he finds most of his nests by the method which he admits is " cruder," and he seems to make pretty free use of a stick for tapping trees and for shaking bushes and other low cover.

Too little emphasis, it seems to me, is laid on the importance of ears for detecting birds and their nests. I should put the ability to sit really still and listen as the first requisite of a good naturalist, whether or not he intends to find a nest. Mr. Campbell is a kepi and indefatigable beater, has found a great many nests and has no doubt done his best to avoid damage, but he advocates methods of search which seem to me too risky, particularly in the hands of people without much experience.