But a shadow in the foreground and a wagon tongue in the rear, did not add to the pictorial effect of the group. After much pulling and prying, I pushed the objectionable wagon out of the drifts, and put off further photographing until the next morning.
The morning came as bright and sunny as I desired. My feathered subjects were early in the open air studio, and required no conventional admonition to 'look pleasant. The negative obtained proved very good, and well repaid me for all trouble and annoyance. A few Yellow-headed Blackbirds were attracted by the food supply I furnished, and I made several negatives of them. The Yellow-heads were more wary than the Horned Larks, and flew away at the slightest disturbance.
Only a few at a time gathered beneath the window, while the others perched on fence-posts at a safe distance and kept watch. But it remained for a Northern Shrike to add 'insult to injury,' by seizing a dead mouse I had placed on a post and alighting on the camera with its capture! Bird-Studies for Children. The birds can easily be coaxed to the piazza or the window-shelf by the judicious offer of free lunch, and so a speaking acquaintance, perhaps even a life-long friendship, with them may be gained. But with city children, especially those of the poorer classes, the case is very different.
The question how to teach them to know and care for birds is by no means so easy. Look at their case: they have seen no birds but English Sparrows and caged Canaries and Parrots; few of them know the Robin; they practically never go to the country, and many of them never even go to the parks. How shall they be taught about birds? Observing the rule of advancing from known to unknown, would suggest Dick the Canary, as the obvious point of departure from a tenement into the world of birds; then, perhaps, the Summer Yellow-bird in the park, commonly known as the 'Wild Canary,' and then Mr.
Goldfinch and his little olive-brown spouse, who would make a natural transition to the brown Sparrow family, and so on. The difficulty here is that it is so nearly impossible to get city children up to the park to see the Yellow-bird. So another method, involving no country walks and no live birds, has to be resorted to. We may use pictures,—drawn before the class and colored, if possible,—and, trusting to the children's powers of imagination and idealization, may connect with their experience at some other point.
After studying about the carpenter, in kindergarten or primary school, for instance, it is easy to interest children in the Woodpecker by proposing to tell them about a "little carpenter bird;" after talking of the fisherman, a promise to tell them of a bird who is a fisherman is sure to stir their imaginations of the doings of the Kingfisher, and so with the weaver Oriole , mason Robin and others.
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The teacher says:. Now, I'm thinking of a bird nearly as large as a Pigeon; he is brownish, with black barring on the back, black spots all over the breast," etc. Before the teacher has gone far, a dozen hands are waving wildly and several vociferous whispers are heard, proclaiming in furious pianissimo: " I know," " I know what it is. This appeal to the play instinct excites great interest, which is the thing chiefly to be desired. When a number of birds have been learned in this way, a trip to the Natural History Museum would be of very great value, especially noticing the wonderful reproductions of actual scenes from bird-life there displayed.
In this way city children could see in a single day more real bird-life than they could otherwise get in a year, as their few country days are generally populous picnics, from which the birds flee aghast. The children should take their kindergarten principles of observation and conversational description to the Museum with them, and, on returning to school, should draw and color some bird they have seen. To observe and describe and, perhaps, draw each new bird whose picture is shown in the classroom is also a good thing.
The writer passed a mounted Flicker through a class of fifty children of kindergarten age, let them look and carefully handle, and then asked for "stories" about it. One child said: "I know—Oh—I know seven stories—no, eight— nine stories about Mr.
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Yellow Hammer," and she really did know her nine "stories. When they have gone as far as this, most bird stories will interest them, especially if the birds are humanized for them by the teller of the tale. To sum up, it may be said that the best way to begin is to teach a few birds well,—a dozen or so,—by connecting with the child's experience, in some way, the information to be given, and then employing the play instinct by having bird games of various kinds, both kindergarten bird games and others; observation, description and drawing of birds may follow, and first and last, and all the time, all descriptions and stories given to children should be in terms of human nature.
A lthough we have fewer birds during the winter than at any other season, at no other time during the year do the comparative advantages of ornithology as a field study seem so evident. The botanist and entomologist now find little out of doors to attract them, and, if we except a stray squirrel or rabbit, birds are the only living things we may see from December to March.
Winter, therefore, is a good time to begin the study of birds, not only because flowers and insects do not then claim our attention, but also because the small number of birds then present is a most encouraging circumstance to the opera-glass student, who, in identifying birds, is at the mercy of a 'key.
Indeed, the difficulty now lies not in identification, but in discovery; unless one is thoroughly familiar with a given locality and its bird-life, one may walk for miles and not see a feather—a particularly unfortunate state of affairs if one has a bird-class in charge. This dilemma, however, may be avoided by catering to the dominant demand of bird-life at this season, the demand for food.
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Given a supply of the proper kind of food, and birds in the winter may nearly always be found near it. Bird seed and grain may be used, but a less expensive diet, and one which will doubtless be more appreciated, consists of sweepings from the hay-loft containing the seeds to which our birds are accustomed.
This may be scattered by the bushel or in a sufficient quantity to insure a hearty meal for all visiting Juncos and Tree Sparrows, with perhaps less common winter seed-eaters. Winter, strange as it may seem, is an excellent season for bird-nesting. The trees and bushes now give up the secrets they guarded from us so successfully during the summer, and we examine them with as much interest as we pore over the 'Answers to Puzzles in Preceding Number' department of a favorite magazine.
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Immediately after a snow storm is the best time in which to hunt for birds' nests in the winter. Then all tree and bush nests have a white cap, which renders them more conspicuous. When walking with children, the spirit of competition may be aroused by saying "Who'll see the first nest," or "Who'll see the next nest first," as the case may be, and the number discovered under this impetus is often surprising.
Boys and girls who study birds are invited to send short accounts of their observations to this department. Our Doorstep Sparrow. Our little doorstep friend is the very smallest of all the brown Sparrows you know, and wears a reddish brown cap, and a gray vest so plain it hasn't a single button or stripe on it. He is a dear, plump little bird, who sits in the sun and throws up his head and chippers away so happily that people call him the Chipping Sparrow.
He comes to the doorstep and looks up at you as if he knew you wanted to feed him, and if you scatter crumbs on the piazza he will pick them up and hop about on the floor as if it were his piazza as well as yours. One small Chippy, whom his friends called Dick, used to light on the finger of the kind man who fed him, and use his hand for dining-room, and sometimes when he had had a very nice breakfast, he would hop up on a finger, perch, and sing a happy song! Dick was so sure his friends were kind and good, that as soon as his little birds were out of the nest, he brought them to be fed too.
They did not know what a nice dining-room a hand makes, so they wouldn't fly up to it, but when the gentleman held their bread and seeds close to the ground, they would come and help themselves. If you were a bird and were going to build a nest, where would you put it? At the end of a row of your brothers' nests, as the Eave Swallows do? Or would that be too much like living in a row of brick houses in the city? Chipping Sparrows don't like to live too close to their next door neighbors. They don't mind if a Robin is in the same tree, on another bough, but they want their own branch all to themselves.
Photographed by Mr.
Bird-Lore, Volume I, by Frank M. Chapman, Editor, a Project Gutenberg eBook.
Lieutenant Robinson writes that a pair of Chipping Sparrows placed their nest in the climbing rose bush at the end of the piazza. One of the pair, supposed to be the female, was easily tamed with the aid of bread crumbs, and for three successive years she returned to the piazza, always immediately resuming her habits of familiarity. And they want it to be a branch, too. Other birds may build their nests on the ground, or burrow in the ground, or dig holes in tree trunks, or even hang their nests down inside dark chimneys if they like, but Chippy doesn't think much of such places.
He wants plenty of daylight and fresh air. But even if you have made up your mind to build on a branch, think how many nice trees and bushes there are to choose from, and how hard it must be to decide on one. You'd have to think a long time and look in a great many places. You see you want the safest, best spot in all the world in which to hide away your pretty eggs, and the precious birdies that will hatch out of them.
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They must be tucked well out of sight, for weasels and cats, and many other giants like eggs and nestlings for breakfast. If you could find a kind family fond of birds, don't you think it would be a good thing to build near them? Perhaps they would drive away the cats and help protect your brood.
Then on hot summer days maybe some little girl would think to put out a pan of water for a drink and a cool bath. Some people, like Dick's friends, are so thoughtful they throw out crumbs to save a tired mother bird the trouble of having to hunt for every morsel she gets to give her brood. Just think what work it is to find worms enough for four children who want food from daylight to dark!
The vines of a piazza make a safe, good place for a nest if you are sure the people haven't a cat, and love birds.